ABC's Gay Rights Mini Enlists Michael K. Williams, Sets All-Star Guest Cast

Whoopi Goldberg, Rosie O'Donnell, Denis O'Hare and David Hyde Pierce will guest in Dustin Lance Black's 'When We Rise.'
Courtesy of ABC
Michael K. Williams

ABC is pulling out all the stops for its upcoming gay rights miniseries When We Rise.

The Dustin Lance Black entry has added alum Michael K. Williams as a series regular and tapped an impressive guest list that includes Whoopi Goldberg, Rosie O'Donnell, Denis O'Hare and David Hyde Pierce.

When We Rise chronicles the personal and political struggles, setbacks and triumphs of a diverse family of LGBT men and women who helped pioneer one of the last legs of the U.S. civil rights movement, from its turbulent infancy in the 20th century to the once-unfathomable successes of today.

Williams (The Wire, Boardwalk Empire) will co-star as African-American community organizer Ken Jones, while newcomer Ivory Aquino will portray the role of transgender activist Cecilia Chung.

Goldberg will take on the part of Pat Norman, the first openly gay employee of the San Francisco Health Department; O'Donnell is set as Del Martin, co-founder of the first lesbian organization in the country; O'Hare will take on Jim Foster, an openly gay Democratic party organizer; and Pierce is set as Dr. Jones, LGBT activist Cleve Jones' (Guy Pearce) father.

Mary-Louise Parker is set as women's rights leader Roma Guy; Rachel Griffiths is Roma's wife, activist Diane; Austin McKenzie is the young Cleve; Emily Skeggs is the young Roma; Jonathan Mauors is the young Ken Jones; and Fiona Dourif is the younger Diane. Dylan Walsh recurs as Dr. Marcus Conant and Kevin McHale is set as AIDS activist Bobbi Campbell. Rafael de la Fuente is set as Ricardo, Cleve's partner.

The drama was written and created by Black, who won an Academy Award for penning the screenplay for the Harvey Milk biopic Milk. The ABC Studios entry will be executive produced by Laurence Mark and Bruce Cohen, the latter of whom produced Milk. Gus Van Sant, who earned an Oscar nomination for directing Milk, also serves as an exec producer on the mini, which was first announced in July 2013. Dee Rees (Bessie, Pariah) and Thomas Schlamme (The West Wing, Manhattan) will each direct two hours of the eight-part miniseries. Van Sant is helming part one (hours one and two); Rees is set for parts two and three (hours three and four); Schlamme is directing parts four and five (hours five and six); and Black is set for parts six and seven (hours seven and eight).